Tuesday, February 19, about 8:45 a.m. Just a bit more than nine months ago.
I was about to leave for work when my phone rang. I recognized the number as Jim’s old cell number and wondered why on earth he was using it to call me.
The answer came when I accepted the call. His work cell phone was no longer his, nor was his office. The CFO had informed him that due to a reduction in force (RIF), his position as vice president, software applications, was being eliminated. Along with 24 others, including one additional vice president, he was ushered out of the building by security and told to return on Saturday to clean out his office.
Somehow we both managed to get in touch with our girls, our families, and others who needed to know. I decided to stay home from work that day just to be with Jim and offer support. But there was no need.
Jim wasn’t coming home just yet. He had already planned two coffee dates with people from his network and would visit several recruiters before the day was done. When I came home after work, our dining room had been converted to what we jokingly referred to as The Office of Transition. The centerpiece was replaced by an aging iMac, and the table was already littered with papers, business cards, notes with phone numbers, and numerous unfamiliar items that had formerly lived in his office. By the end of the first week, he had already found several good job leads in Memphis. Not bad for an introvert.
The higher you go in management, the fewer positions are available, and we knew this would be a long process. After a few months, we prepared ourselves for the possibility of moving away from Memphis for the next opportunity.
We decided to think of it as an adventure in empty nest living. Maybe we’d live in a
small miniscule downtown condo in Chicago; a rambling stony house with a beautiful pool in a Houston suburb; Minneapolis, where we would finally get enough snow for my taste; a home within walking distance of the beach in Jacksonville, Florida; or maybe in a city like Roanoke, Birmingham, Atlanta, Louisville, Nashville, or … St. Louis. I could almost hear the crack of the bat in Busch Stadium, where we’d have season tickets.
Having Jim home each day was new for me, and we began to develop routines. In the late afternoons, we’d both take a break and watch Gilmore Girls together. Some days I’d work from home and we’d head to the patio to work and enjoy the outdoors. Many mornings he made coffee, and I loved waking up to the smell. We counted the days until the opening day of baseball season, and the Cardinal games meant we always had something to do in the evenings. When Sara Ann moved back in with us, he was here to spend time with her and help her move, and he enjoyed taking walks with the dogs.
There were times that it felt like too much, as if the house would fall on us and we’d be left standing in the midst of fallen walls and shattered windows. When our girls were small and they were afraid, I’d tell them that nothing is as scary as God is strong. In their childlike faith, those words were comfort; in our adult doubts and fears they brought peace as we realized we were not alone. Over these months we were reminded that faith is more than just church on Sunday morning and a check in the offering plate. We learned anew that beyond every disappointment there’s a bit of new wisdom and that God is always, always faithful. I knew I’d grown when, after a particularly difficult no on a potential position, I realized I wasn’t upset or angry, but confident that the right opportunity would come, and excited for something better that must be in store.
From the moment I caught my breath after that phone call in February, our faith gave us an underlying peace, as we knew that God was with us, He was in control, and that the important things in our lives are not things. As the hymn reminds us, morning by morning new mercies I see. And we did. Some large, some small.
Jim’s old iMac, which should have long since stopped working, is still going, though frustratingly slow. His car needs $1200 worth of work, none of it critical, and will likely be done by whomever we sell it to after the holidays. My freelance work picked up so much that for a while I had no downtime. We were taken to dinner too many times to count, and spent long hours lounging in my sister’s pool. In May, my mother treated me to a incredible trip to New York, and in October my sister and brother-in-law took me to a World Series game in St. Louis.
But most of all, God gave us four seasons of faithfulness: spring flowers, home-grown tomatoes, beautiful sunsets, cool breezes, and fall leaves of every color. There is nothing that He cannot use for good, and He has outdone himself in our lives. Growth and learning always follow adversity, and to have faith is to be assured that divine good will ultimately outweigh earthly struggles.
The happy ending
Last week, Jim began a fantastic new job at a Memphis-based company. It’s essentially a raise, a promotion, and carries the added perk of an I-240-free commute each morning. Next week I’ll celebrate my 55th birthday. Yes, in my kids’ eyes, and probably many of yours, that’s old. But I like to say that no cancer survivor ever complains about getting older. Each year is another year of life that cancer didn’t take away.
Another year of wisdom — and 365 more days of new mercies.
Other posts I’ve written about these nine months: